Hundreds at Leading New York Hospital Call for 'Culture Shift'

Ellie Kincaid

May 17, 2019

Almost 300 faculty and staff members of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City have signed a letter to the board of trustees calling for a "culture shift" in light of a lawsuit alleging sex and age discrimination at the institution. More than 260 medical students and 200 alumni have signed similar letters.

"The lawsuit alleges behaviors of bullying and misogyny that are not consistent with the values of our institution," the faculty and staff letter, published online Thursday, reads. "We believe that decisive action is necessary to send a clear message that our institution is committed to equity, accountability, and mutual respect."

Seven former and current female Mount Sinai employees and one former male employee filed a complaint April 26 against the health system, its Arnhold Institute for Global Health Director Prabhjot Singh, MD, PhD, and dean of the Icahn School of Medicine, Dennis Charney, MD.

The lawsuit, reported in Science May 2, alleges Charney chose Singh to be the institute's director as a 32-year-old resident over the "accomplished scholar and academic leader," a woman, recommended by the search committee.

The lawsuit further alleges Singh forced out established female employees and preferred hiring young men, misled the institute's donors, and ignored protocols for research with human subjects. "He has stayed in his position with no public reprimand as Mount Sinai has bent over backwards to protect and advance him," the complaint states.

"The Icahn School of Medicine opposes discrimination of any kind," Mount Sinai said in a statement to Medscape Medical News. "We are committed to equity, diversity, and inclusion, and these core values permeate every aspect of our work and community. When employees in the Institute for Global Health brought concerns to our attention, we acted swiftly, responsibly and decisively to initiate a thorough internal investigation. The allegations of discrimination are false, and we will vigorously defend the action."

"Courage to Stand Up"

The faculty and staff letter calls for the Mount Sinai board of trustees to enlist an external consultant to investigate the claims in the lawsuit and enforce a zero-tolerance harassment policy, hold parties accountable for their actions, open a third party-run compliance hotline for additional concerns, and become a signatory organization to Time's Up Healthcare.

Seven assistant, associate, and senior associate deans; more than 120 professors; the chair of the urology department; and the vice chair of the rehabilitation and human performance department were among the faculty and staff listed as signing the letter.

A letter from Mount Sinai medical students, first published May 6, had more than 260 signatures listed online as of Thursday evening. The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai has 537 medical students, according to facts and figures on its website.

At the medical school's recent graduation, student speaker Cati Crawford commended the student letter's organizer and said, "To Mount Sinai, an institution that outwardly claims a commitment to equity and social justice, we say, time's up," to a round of applause. Some female students who graduated also wore "Time's Up" buttons on their gowns.

"The described events [in the lawsuit] are particularly upsetting when the accused are leaders at our school who are supposed to be role models," the student letter reads, adding, "We call on our school leadership to live up to their promise, as outlined in the Faculty Hippocratic Oath, to have the 'courage to stand up for the oppressed and vulnerable and against prejudice and racism in all that we do.' "

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